Cost of living bites into school lunches

Parents challenged by the soaring cost of groceries can be reassured that pre-prepared foods still have their place in childrens lunchboxes, experts say.

National Retail Association’s Health and Nutrition Advisor Dr Alan Barclay said with school resuming this week families can rely on affordable, nutritious pre-packaged food items for school lunches as households budgets grapple with inflation, interest rates, energy and other rising costs.

“Aussie families dealing with the cost of living crisis are struggling to live up to the picture-perfect, instagramable school lunchbox that seems to have become the latest standard of a healthy lunch.

“While a well-balanced meal remains an important part of a child’s school day, busy parents need convenient, affordable and tasty options for their kids.”

Dr Barclay, who works closely with retailers and government officials across policy and food regulation standards, said a well-balanced lunch can include pre-packaged items that have a 3.5 or higher Health Star Rating.

“Foods such as muesli bars, cheese and crackers, 100% fruit juice and flavoured milk are healthy  options to include in a lunchbox, and kids actually want to eat them.

“Enjoyed alongside a sandwich containing wholegrains, protein and vegetables, children can still get all of their essential nutrients to help them learn, play and grow.”

Dr Barclay said the best approach to school lunches is to involve children in discussion and preparation of their lunchboxes and guide them to make their own decisions about the food they eat.

“This way children will consume all their food, minimising food waste, which is a major environmental issue in Australia.

“Food is not just a collection of nutrients, it is one of life’s pleasures and has important social and cultural meaning as well.”

The National Retail Association is the voice of modern retail, representing more than 60,000 stores across Australia. It has been serving businesses in the retail and fast-food sectors for close to 100 years.

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